1Now the Spirit speaketh
expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith,
Just to be on the safe side, I looked up the word stiffnecked in the Greek and in the Hebrew. Yep, stiffnecked means stiff necked, in other words, can't move the neck at all. The Greek word carries with it the idea of being "obstinate." I thought it would, and I thought I knew what obstinate meant. But just to be on the safe side....
This is what my dictionary says for the word obstinate: "Keeping firmly to one's opinion or one's chosen course of action, not easily persuaded."
Have you ever wondered if Webster (if he is the first one to write a dictionary) is merely reporting his findings of what a word means, or if he is "defining", that is, establishing what words mean? Such a position to be in. Of course we know that can't be so because it's the prerogative of the rebellious teenager to define what words mean. Consider "cool" and "bad" for a couple of examples.
Words are such mysterious things. They can either reveal meanings, or they can hide meanings. An example of hiding is what we call the "little white lie." That little lie might seem like a trivial thing to us when we tell it, for example a parent telling a child about Santa Clause and other such fairy tales, and I'm sure others come to your mind. But as innocent as our intention is when we tell the tale, it sets something into motion. Fairy tales, told by a parent to a naive and trusting child, sets in motion an ultimate distrust of anything that parent, or in fact any adult since parents and teachers hold such high positions of trust and demand that they be considered the ultimate authority, says. Yet because of not knowing otherwise, or caring to stop and think about what we're doing, we perpetuate the fantasies with our own children and others under our sway.
Stiffnecked, as described above, that is "sticking firmly to one's opinion or course of action, not easily persuaded" sounds like qualities to seek for one's self. After all, the other side of the coin is certainly not desirable, that of being wishy-washy and uncertain about anything. I think of those not stiffnecked like the puppet who's head is on a spring, flopping from side-to-side with the slightest movement. Not a pretty picture.
Does the word "stiffnecked" come to your mind by any chance when you think of the "believes" described above? Maybe another word occurs to you as well, that word being "cult member."
Or, just maybe, you thought of someone in you own church who fits this description.
Of course we know you couldn't possibly fit this description, or any of the others pictured below. You're a thinker, an individualist, a person who seeks the truth, and who will fight to the death to defend that truth.
Yeah, right, and the moon is made of green cheese.
The second group of people who attend church are those who do not believe in everything they're told by the ministers of "truth." They are the unbelievers. In their mind they "think for themselves," and because they think for themselves, they're not about to accept everything poured in their ears by those holding the spigot of knowledge. Nope, not they. But ask these none-believers what they do believe, since they don't believe what they're being told, and their answer is either vague, or none-existent. These none-believers, who recognize they are not being spoon-fed the truth, do not actively seek the knowledge of truth they know they lack.
Why not? And, why, if they don't believe what their church teaches, do they attend that church rather than seek a church that teaches what they believe?
Questions, questions. It's easier to fall into one category or the other and not make waves, is it not? I'm sure you know, because you, like me, either fit, or have fit, into one or the other of the above categories yourself.
God condemned the stiffnecked people, and also those who are tossed about by the waves of doctrine (Jude 1:6-9; Eph 4:14). Do we believe in God? Do we believe what He says? If so, then what are we going to do about our condemned condition?
I attended a wonderful (not an inflated use of the word) display just the other day. I was near spellbound by the information the young orator was issuing forth with such eloquence and confidence. Of course I was aware that his fount of knowledge came, for the most part, from a canned speech he had memorized, but nonetheless, he left me with the feeling that he possessed a wealth of knowledge about the Bible above what he was sharing in the limited time allotted him.
I would guess myself to be 50 years this young lad's senior, and fairly well versed in the topic of the lecture. Yet he was speaking of things I had not even considered, and certainly did not comprehend. As he spoke, I would scan my mental file cabinet to see if I could relate to what he was saying, but as hard as I tried, bits and pieces of information fell to the floor, unable to attach itself to what I had learned or what the Bible said regarding the subject he spoke so confidently about.
I thought perhaps I had missed something in my own investigative studies of the subject. I always try to keep an open mind to such a possibility, recognizing that I don't know everything, but willing and anxious to learn what is presented to me.
After the exhibit, I accosted the young lad and began to ply my questions regarding what he had been telling us. Time was limited, so there wasn't a great deal I could learn from this encounter. But I was able to purchase some books on the subject that was conveniently supplied by the organization presenting the exhibit, and from these books (again, possessing much fascinating and pertinent information), I was able to make the connections between what I had seen in the Bible, and what the young speaker was saying.
I had hoped to learn that I had missed, or had not yet discovered, a treasure trove of information on the Bible, connecting elements of the past with the future.
However, this was not to be. Life is not often as simple as that. I discovered, through my reading of the books I had purchased, that once again I had been taken on a space ship ride.
We humans live in a world of firm elements. Our daily existence is one of sight, hearing, and touch. What we don't experience through these channels of reality does not in fact exist.
But we seek the non-existent. We desire what is not so. Because of this we like to escape into our imagination through books, movies and song. For the most part we're aware that we are in a world of make-believe when we delve into the world of the mind. However, on occasion, a flight of fantasy will take us to a world, or at least an island, where we wish to remain, or at least take with us a tidbit with which to cling to that experience. Science has its moon rocks that perform this function. But we, you and I, have our own moon rocks in our museum of fantasy.
When we desire to travel from one point to another we often consult a map or ask someone who has taken the route themselves. We have no idea if the map, or the instructions given us is accurate or factual. We make our plans holding to a trust and a hope that we have been given, and that we understood correctly, accurate information.
When we study our map we see a point here and a dot there with lines between them. There might even be a note or two about what one might expect to encounter between those dots and circles. Everything else, not supplied, is left to our imagination.
We live on a solid earth. When we travel on this terra firma we know, for the most part, where we are because we can sense it in one way or another. But when we consider the stars and other planets, we have no such sense of reality to assist us. We are at the mercy of our imagination, or the imagination of someone else. In our mind, because we have no set of instructions indicating otherwise, we can imagine green men on mars, or the man in the moon, or, in times past, even the world being flat since by all appearances it is so.
We live on a solid earth. And we wish to travel to a planet beyond our reach. How do we get from here to there? We build a space ship. That space ship might be very large, or it might be a time machine or a cosmic gateway such as on Star Trek ("Beam me up, Scotty!"). Normally, the means by which we travel from one point to another is of small consequence. It's what lies on the other end of the trip that is important.
But this is not always so. And in the world of the Bible, it certainly is not so.
There are many small (and even large) "islands" of information in the Bible. Many of these islands are stories we hear from the pulpit, or that we read to our children. We have David and Goliath, Sampson and Delila, Adam and Eve, and we have Jesus and His Apostles. These are islands, interesting bits and pieces of information God seems to be sharing with us.
Between these island, these stories, are vast oceans of words that make no sense to us, nor are we interested in them. They appear to us as wasted space, that if we bother reading them at all, we dismiss them as unintelligible trivia designed to be skimmed at best as we ride our sleepy ship over them to the next island of adventure to be experienced.
Occasionally someone comes along who recognizes that this ocean of words is more than it appears to be. This person will see in the words a path from one island to another, like the lines connecting the dots on a map. However, unlike the map that lies on your table, this map, of the Bible, resembles a map of the heavens with planetoids and milky ways that serve as stepping-stones from one point to the next. Deciding which destination precedes another, or follows another, is not as easy as it would appear. Luckily for the one who has discovered one or more of these passage ways, no one else knows if what they are seeing is correct, nor do they care.
Thus, the space ship. And like any other adventure into the unknown, there are multitudes of people willing and anxious to tag along and follow anyone who says they have the truth, or they have found a new way.
Especially if that way supposedly leads to God.
In the story of the widow's mite (Mark 12:41-44) we are given an example of two extremes of human character. Our first example is that of the Pharisee. We know from all Jesus said about the Pharisees that they were a very highly respected class of people. And well they should be. The Pharisees were among the most knowledgeable people in the world, both of the law, and of God, which in those days was the very same thing. The Pharisees had dedicated their life to understanding and following the laws of Moses, as well as the 600 plus traditions that had been added to the law over the centuries. The Pharisees were beyond reproach, in any way. They made sure their lives were exemplary whereby not a finger could be pointed at them in accusation.
But there was one thing lacking in the Pharisee that Jesus kept pointing out. And that one thing was, with all their religiosity, their heart was not in it. It was all a sham, for show, and for the rewards, both from fellow man, and supposedly from God, that they lived such perfect lives (Mat 15:8-9).
We are told that our works are not acceptable to God, that they are as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). The very best we have to offer is of nothing to God. And the more we have to offer, such as with the Pharisees, the less acceptable it is to God.
The Bible tells us to rend our heart (Joel 2:13) and not our garment. Rending (tearing) of the clothes is an outward display of what is supposedly happening inside a person. When clothes are torn, it means the person is in mourning and internal turmoil. But God wants a heart that is torn. He wants our ego, our "spirit" to be squashed and done away with, and to have concern for others (Mat 12:7), and not be doing those things that supposedly make us special to God (Isaiah 66:all)
The Pharisee had a great deal to say about himself, glorifying himself and not God. How fortunate God was to have such a wonderful person stand on His side (See Luke 18:9-14).
We think of Job as having no sin. God even called him perfect. What more could one ask? However there was one sin in Job's life that he was unaware of. But with a little help from the devil, that sin was brought out into the open where, once God pointed it out to him, Job could not deny. Job's sin was that of the Pharisee. Job thought he was without fault.
Job had to learn that thinking highly of one's self is a sin and a slap in God's face (Isaiah 48:11; Rev 5:11-14). All our best is nothing more than what is expected of us (Luke 14:25-35). And when we have given our very best, we should view it as nothing (Luke 17:10). Those who have done so much for God in the eyes of men will be seen as nothing in the eyes of God (Mat 7:21-27).
Elderly widows, which I assume this widow in the story to be, was to be looked upon with a certain respect (Ex 22:22-24; 1Tim 5:3). Whether this was done in those days or not is pure speculation, at least it is in my understanding of it. A widow without the support of her children, which apparently was the trend amongst the Pharisees, that is, abandoning their parents (Mark 7:9-13; Mat 23:14), was to be cared for by the Temple, or the Church in Christian circles (Deut 14:29; 1Tim 5:3-6). It might be said that they were on welfare. As welfare recipients we might expect that only the barest of essentials were being given to her, the widow, especially since we see that the ones responsible for their welfare were very selfish people not even caring for their own parents.
A "mite" was a copper coin so small that the imprint on it was barely legible. It was worth about 1/8 of a cent. Probably you and I wouldn't even bother to stoop to pick one up off the ground. But this was everything this woman had. We derive from this picture a woman far more concerned with the Church (the Temple) and other poor and hungry than she was herself. She, in essence, was living the life God had ordained for His creation from the beginning. She was an example of unselfish love (Gal 5:14; Mat 22:39-40).
Tell me now, is there a single church or religion of any nature, regardless of when or where, that is not a "cult" as defined here?
Another word that creeps into the vocabulary of the "mainstream" churches is the word "sect."
What is a sect, and how does it differ from a cult? Let's turn to the dictionary once again and see what it has to tell us.
A sect according to Oxford is a: "A group of people with religious or other beliefs that differ from the more generally accepted."
Isn't this fascinating? Now tell me, what is the "Generally accepted," and what church or religious system doesn't differ from all the others?
The mainstream Protestants (whatever they are) like to call anyone who differs from them a "cult." How that word, instead of "Sect" ever came into use is anybody's guess. But as best as I can tell it all began in 1933 when somebody decided to give names to the various divisions of the church so they could place them in some form of box of understanding. You know the boxes I mean, sociologists and psychologists, and politicians and the like use them extensively. Over time the meaning of the word cult continued to change until "cult" meant any group of people that had an authoritarian government over it. Then in the 70' to the 80's this grew to mean any dangerous group, generally meaning those groups such as the Jim Jones and Watergate... Oops, make that Heaven's Gate clan where lives were actually lost. Also during that time there was the Charles Manson "family" that did little to alleviate the fear of such groups.
The powers that be, rather than calling these groups a "sect," which seems to me to be a more appropriate designation, used the word "cult," and defined a cult as any group that was outside the mainstream (whatever that is) classification of churches.
Now, this gets interesting. Who do you suppose the Mainstream churches decided to include in that group of excluded churches, therefore casting on them the classification of "cult"?
Let me tell you a little story. A while back, and for well over a thousand years, there was a very large and powerful, shall I use the word "denomination" (which according to Oxford means: "A name or title, a distinctively named church or religious sect.") who was basically the only denomination of any consequence, and nobody dared break away from this group on threat of death. Does this sound like a group of people that could be defined as a "dangerous cult"?
But break away small groups did, and these small groups became large groups, that demanded if anyone break away from them they were to either be beheaded or be designated a heretic and ostracized.
Kind of reminds me of the hazing process in colleges. I got hazed, you get hazed, everybody gets hazed, hey! Well anyway, back to the story.
The whole world was Catholic (which according to my dictionary means: "Universal, including many or most things"). And the Catholic church wanted very much that everything be included, insomuch they even included many Pagan rituals and holidays, just to make sure everything was included.
But there were people who didn't feel very universal, and didn't want to be part of the included. These, at least those in the 1500's or so, came to be known as "Rebels".... No, that's not right. Well, I'm sure it was right according to the Catholics of the time, but now we call them "Protestants" (Which according to ye ol' dictionary means: "To resist authority or control; to refuse to obey; to protest strongly"). Sound right? Well, that's the definition of "Rebel." Gotcha!
Now 500 years or so has passed since power essentially changed hands, or at least power has been neutralized, and those rebels, called the "Mainstream" churches are calling the shots. And do they ever shoot! Whoever doesn't agree with them (whoever "them" happens to be, because I can't figure out who "them" is), or accept their view they call a "cult" and doom them to hell for eternity.
Yet, it seems to me that everyone disagrees with everyone else, especially amidst and amongst those within the Mainstream. So who, prey tell, is doing the deciding, and just what constitutes a dangerous cult?
Well, one group they often call a cult is, you guessed it, the group they broke away from: the Catholic church.
But wait! Isn't it the one who breaks away that is called the cult (or sect)? Yet it's the break awayers who is calling the main body a cult. Now I'm even more confused. Who is the one being different from whom here? I think somebody is terribly confused. I for one, but I think there's also a lot of "experts" who have beat me to the confused punch.
Ok, who or what is a "cult" I can't figure out. But this one thing I know: There's a lot of kettles calling the skillets black. So let's take a look at the stove that's blackening both of them.
To begin with, the Bible says (and I think quite strongly) that a Christian must not judge others unless they want to be judged themselves. No less than Jesus said this, and I take it He knows what He's talking about (Mat 7:1-2). So right off I see the "Mainstream" churches (whoever they are) leading the way over the cliff they've assigned to those they've judged as "cult." That should be the end of it, but I'm having too much fun, so I'll go a little farther and really jam my foot in my mouth.
There are certain characteristics about the groups that the "Mainstream" churches (whoever they... Oh, you know what I'm going to say) call cults that they don't like. One of these characteristics is that they are authoritarian. Yep, that they are. No doubt about it. But let's look at the kettle that's casting accusations. Go to any of the "Mainstream" churches, join up, then say you disagree with something they preach. Tell them the Holy Spirit has shown you that one of their "foundational" doctrines is wrong and that you can prove it (as they are supposedly able to prove of those they call cults). Do you think there will be any "Authoritarian characteristics" exhibited by the pastor and board of elders? I suspect there might just be a teeny-weeny bit of it showing as they kick you unceremoniously out the door.
Another feature the Mainstream Kettle doesn't like is that the "cults" do something strange, like obey the laws laid down by the Bible, especially the Old Testament. They, the Kettle, claim and demand that what God banished His special people for doing, that is breaking His law (including the Sabbath) to thousands of years of banishment is now a punishable offense, sending those who obey the law to hell for eternity.
There is yet another distinguishing distinction that classifies a cult as a cult, and that is they look to some other source for their doctrine outside the Bible. Now that certainly is understandable, except for one thing. Follow any of the Kettle leaders to their lair, I mean their den, their study, and see if they have any other book with well-worn pages besides the Bible (if they still bother to use the Bible. Many don't you know). I venture to say they will have several, if not like me, hundreds. Ok, but having books, reading books, and memorizing books is not the same as being led by the nose by the author of those books. Jesus told the Pharisees that their sin was allowing their traditions to override the Word of God (Mark 7:5-13; John 9:40-41; Rev 3:17). As a member, especially one in any kind of position in any of the churches, cults, or whatever, say you disagree with any of their "traditions," regardless of whether it is condoned in the Bible or not, and see if that church thinks more of their "traditions," or of the Words written in the Bible.
What am I saying here? I'm saying that any one of the Mainstream Kettle churches is just as much a cult, the group they condemn, as those they condemn. And that beings to mind what Jesus said about the Mote and the Log, and about doing the very same thing one accuses another of doing. In case you aren't familiar with Jesus' Words to that effect you can find them in Mat 7:3-5 and this:
1Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things. 2But we are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth against them which commit such things. 3And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God? 4Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? 5But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; 6Who will render to every man according to his deeds: 7To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life: 8But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, 9Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile; (Rom 2:)
This brings me to the final point. We see in the Scriptures above that those who are doing the judging, while doing the same thing, are actually behind and below those they are judging. I say this because there is hardly a "cult" worthy of the name that does not demand their adherents obey the Scriptures, showing kindness to others, serve God, witness on some mission field, repent and live just as separated and respectable a life as they possibly can. These are what the Bible from front to back says a Christian must do. These the "cults" do in spite of the condemnation they receive from the "respectable" Kettle that condemns them. Meanwhile, much of (if not most) of the Kettle bury themselves in their den that is identical to that of the "World" they are to be separated from and evangelizing, preaching that works (that will be the basis of God's judgement), repentance, and righteous living is of no consequence. Who, may I ask, do you think God is going to show the most leniency toward?
Just a thought, one that I think we all need to give some serious consideration.
"Why should I Preach? I mean, what've I got to lose? I mean, I done served my time, an' it ain't no big deal if I gets caught again. So why should I change my life from what feels good to me?"
"I'm sorry to hear you say that Mr Jones. Especially so since I've been your pastor for these many years and considering I've been visiting you regularly since your conviction. Hasn't what I've been saying to you meant anything at all? Haven't you learned anything from my teaching?"
"I shore have Preach. I done learned a whole lot, an' I thanks you for it."
"I don't understand Mr Jones. You say you've learned a lot from me, yet you say you have no qualms about going back into a life of crime. Please explain your meaning if you will."
"Well, it's like this preach. It's like all my life I had this here streak in me that wants to do the things what got me in this here prison. But I was scared t' death a goin' to hell if you knows what I mean. Like the fear done kept me from doing what I wanted ta' do. That was, let's see, 'bout thirty years give or take a day or so. Then I done attended your church an' I listened to you preach. I learned a whole bunch listening to you. Then I was baptized, you was the one what baptized me. You gave me a piece a paper with some words on it an' told me to say what was writ on the paper. I did what you done tol' me ta' do. You said I was now a born again Christian, and there was nothin' nobody, not even me nor God could do about it. You remember you tellin' me that Preach?"
"Well, not specifically Mr Jones. However what you described is the procedure I generally follow. But tell me Mr Jones. Aren't you afraid of spending eternity in hell if you return to the life of wickedness that caused your incarceration?"
"Course not Preach. I woulda' been if it weren't for you. An' Like I said, I thanks you kindly for that."
"I don't understand Mr Jones. What did I do or say that could possibly cause you to feel comfortable living a life of crime?"
"Like I tol' ya' Preach. It's like you tol' me over an' over that nothing I do or say from now one will make me one bit more fit, nor make me unfit, for that land a' Glory. So I ain't got a thing ta' lose, 'xept a bunch a fun if I goes straight."
"But Mr Jones, you're still going to have to face the Judgement seat and account for your actions. Aren't you afraid of that?"
"Nope, not at all Preach, an' I'll tell you why. When my time comes, an' if I don't waltz through those golden gates carryin' my wings an' golden slippers, then I'll just point at you an' tell the Man that it was you what taught me all I knows, and that you has been telling me all along that I'm to believe what you say an' none other. I did just that. So as I sees it Preach, the monkey is on your back, and not mine. Yep, I thanks you for the freedom you done gived me. I thanks you a whole bunch."
17Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as THEY THAT MUST GIVE ACCOUNT, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you. (Heb 13:)
Preachers, I'll tell you true. I wouldn't want to stand in your shoes no matter what denomination or church you preside over. But if I did feel such a calling, I would make sure I drove my charges to do their utmost on the field of trial, and not try to convince them that Christianity is a spectator sport. I have enough failings I have to account for without adding that of holding God's sheep from cleansing themselves so they can hear the soft whisper of the Master's voice.
What is the Lord going to say to those shepherds He entrusted His sheep to when they stand before Him and give account for what they have been feeding His flock? How much "Love of Jesus" is going to be exhibited at that time when the Lord will have to cast many of His sheep aside because they are so badly spotted by the world....and you, the preacher, the teacher, the parent, the missionary.... have been the cause of it?
Take a close look at the passage of Scripture above and give it careful consideration. What is Jesus saying here? What treasures is He talking about? Ask your pastor what he thinks Jesus is talking about.
Now, here's a passage that requires even more careful consideration:
4Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? 5But after thy hardness and impenitent heart TREASUREST UP UNTO THYSELF WRATH AGAINST THE DAY OF WRATH AND REVELATION OF THE RIGHTEOUS JUDGMENT OF GOD; 6WHO WILL RENDER TO EVERY MAN ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS: 7To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life: 8But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, 9Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile; (Rom 2:)
Which are you storing away in Heaven toward that day of judgement? Think about it. Think hard about it. Notice what is said above. Think with the mind of a parent. When a child continually does what he is told not to do, and refuses to confess his misdeeds to you and to repent of those deeds, don't you tell him: "Ok son, but your day of reckoning is going to come when all you're actions are going to come down on your head." And in such a statement you're saying that what will befall the child grows bigger with each unconfessed and unrepented action.
This is the same with us toward God. Unfortunately (a terrible choice of words) confession and repentance is no longer stressed in the churches. Alter calls are essentially something relegated to the forgotten past. So the treasures of wrath are steadily growing larger and larger, and the treasures of good fruit are growing smaller.
49I am come to send fire on the earth; and what will I, if it be already kindled? (Luke 12:)
Are you adding fuel to the fire of God's wrath? Think about it.
There was a day when churches were few and far between. There might have been only one or two in a community. But any of those churches, whatever denomination they might have been, there was taught the need for sincere repentance. Now there's a church on every corner with an abundance of empty seats. But for the most part, the only church a person can find where the need for clean living and constant repentance, that does not cater to the whims of the world, are those called the cults by the dying churches in the main stream. And in them, the cults, all seats are filled. People are hungry, and the mainstream churches are not feeding them anymore.
Something is wrong with this picture.
We make our choices. The hope of the convict in the story above does not hold water. You will not be able to point at your pastor or your parent or your teacher to relieve you of blame when your time comes. All the supposed truth you have been taught will be of no avail to you. You are to seek the Lord with your heart, not your itchy ears.
Something to ponder.
We're taught to follow the leader, regardless if what the leader says makes sense or not. To not be fully in support of one's team, or to be critical of any aspect of that team is to be disloyal and may well bring forth strong consequences.
Consider a little league game. Watch at the end of the game. Watch the team of youngsters that can hardly figure our what to do with the bat or the ball in his hands. They trail in the standings so far that they aren't even listed on the schedule. But does that hinder their enthusiasm or their team support? "We're number one!!" they yell after their grand failure: "We're the best!!!"
It is said that after the Watts riot some many years ago, where people from all walks of life were ripping off the stores that had been burned and pillaged, there was a strange occurrence. When the violence had passed, and some form of sanity was restored, a vast number of people (I understand that to be 80%) began to return the things they had stolen. In the heat of the moment they found themselves caught up in the fever, and thr selfish side of their nature had taken over their behavior. Afterwards, when calm once again reigned, they were amazed at what they had done, and they made an effort to undo what their dark side had caused them to do in the heat of the moment.
You've seen this happen with yourself I'm sure. It may have been on a much smaller scale, but nonetheless you understand how this can happen. One evidence that such a nature is common to man is the fact that the media plays on this very nature with "Buy Now!" signs on everything. And we do indeed get caught up in such tactics, at least I do.
We do what we are told is the "normal" thing to do. We see this everywhere. We saw this very strongly in WW2 where the German soldiers did what was totally against their nature because they had been conditioned to do what they were told, and that their leader was always right.
And we surely see this in the churches.
And you're caught up in that very same fever. Accept it or reject it, the truth remains. We are human. We are sons and daughters of Adam, who demonstrated this very trait. Our job here on earth is to resist our nature and to follow the nature of the Spirit, to be perfect as God is perfect (Mat 5:48). We, you and I, can hitch our wagon to a star, meaning a doctrine, a church, or a preacher; or we can take the hand of Our Lord and follow Him. We have but one chance to make that decision. What are you choosing to do?
I assume those of you who read what is written on this site to be of an age beyond that of a teenager. If this is the case, then you have most likely encountered something similar to what I am about to tell you.
I have had jobs where I have been told to "cool it," meaning I should quell my enthusiasm because it made the "old timers," meaning the "establishment" look bad. If I worked hard, it would show up the fact that they have been loitering. You know what I mean.
I've seen this in school as well. The "cool kids," those with power, force the students who have smarts and enthusiasm to feel bad about their efforts by calling them "nerds," or other such names which separate them from the "normal" kids.
I even encountered this in the Army. In the Army? Can you imagine an Army of soldiers that have been told they must do far less than their best? Can you imagine what it would be like to have such an Army defending your country?
Yes, I've seen this in school, and at work, and even in the Army. But I've never encountered this from the top, only from those "in the ranks." I've never had a teacher come up to me and tell me that I have to aim for a "C," meaning average, if I want to get ahead and be amongst the "Popular" kids. It's always been the "popular" kids, who don't like to be challenged that have tried to get me to do less than my best.
I have never had a boss tell me that I have to slow down and produce less than my best if I wanted to continue working on that job.
I have never been told by my parents that I could do all I wanted, no matter how bad it might be, and still get the rewards they promised for doing my best. If I did have such a teacher, or a boss, or a coach, or a parent who told me to do less than my best, I would wonder about them, and I don't think I would feel very comfortable around them. I mean, for instance if I had such a teacher, a coach or a boss, I would tend to watch for the day when they're actions were discovered and the axe should fall. And if I did what that boss said, that being little or nothing, then I would expect the axe to find my neck as well.
I think you would feel the same. Then again you might be the type that would love to have such a teacher, boss or parent because it feeds your desire to receive your share by doing nothing (I think they call that Communism in political circles). But then I should think you would also expect to one day find yourself cast out right along with your teacher or boss who fed your desire for idleness, would you not?
There are certain positions in life where such an attitude is not only accepted but encouraged. But I doubt you or I are in one of these positions. I'm referring to Politicians, CEO's, and other such dignities and royalties. People such as these are expected to be anchors rather than motivators. The rest of us are expected to work for what we are given.
Let me draw you a word picture. Let's say you're on a college football team. You're team is heading for the top, the Superbowl of games we might say. You've had a coach that demands the team throw everything they have into their training, and that is what has caused your team to make it to the top. Your coach, the one who has pushed you to the top of your game has been replaced. This new coach now has a different philosophy. He tells you that you're doing it all wrong. He tells you that it's wrong to work so hard. He recommends rest and the study of the rule book, and maybe games such as jacks and marbles as training aids. On top of this your new coach has a nasty attitude toward other coaches that teach teamwork and hard training, saying they are ignorant and doomed for failure. What would you expect to be the outcome of that big game of yours?
When I was young, that means I hadn't yet attained the age of 40, I never gave much thought to what I was being taught in church. I wasn't listening to what was being preached, and I couldn't understand what little I had read in the Bible. So I just accepted what I was told. And because of my ignorance, and my trust in my church (I say "trust" because I didn't know anything beyond what I was being told, or that there were other possible views) I really didn't believe in the Bible or in Jesus. I just went along with the crowd, unquestioningly. I was an "Acceptor" wearing the name tag, and believing I was a "Believer."
But even though I didn't believe, because I didn't know what I was supposed to believe in other than that when I died I was supposed to go straight to Heaven without passing "go," there was one thing that didn't quite sit right with me. I couldn't understand why I was hearing nasty things said about some of the other churches that was making demands of their people, telling them they had to do their very best if they expected to go to the very same place I was going to go, that is Heaven, even though I did nothing and knew nothing. Why were they condemned, and we, that is our team (church) acceptable? I found that puzzling.
Then in my maturity, that is, when I began to investigate the Word on my own, I found that this situation was even worse than I had realized in my ignorance. I found that the church I had grown up in was becoming more and more like the world it used to condemn, and that their condemnation had expanded to churches composed of people who had once belonged to that very same church, but read in the Bible that they were expected to get on the field so-to-speak and train for the Superbowl. Why is it that striving for perfection, that working for rewards, is considered as evil and a sure way to get sent to hell, while the couch potato is given promise of the trophy? Somehow this just doesn't make sense to me. Yet it's the attitude that pervades the church of today.
How can this be, I wonder, when the Bible is filled from cover to cover, and from the very first man in the Garden of Eden, to the very last man in the Book of Revelation, with terrible suffering for holding to such a teaching? It doesn't work in this life, and it isn't demonstrated in any way in the Bible. Yet it is apparently believed and taught in most of the Mainline churches. To me this is an amazing thing. Do you find it amazing as well?
eyes fail for thy salvation, and for the word of thy righteousness.
20WOE UNTO THEM THAT CALL EVIL GOOD, AND GOOD EVIL; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! 21Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight! 22Woe unto them that are mighty to drink wine, and men of strength to mingle strong drink: 23Which JUSTIFY THE WICKED FOR REWARD, AND TAKE AWAY THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF THE RIGHTEOUS FROM HIM! 24Therefore as the fire devoureth the stubble, and the flame consumeth the chaff, so their root shall be as rottenness, and their blossom shall go up as dust: because THEY HAVE CAST AWAY THE LAW OF THE LORD OF HOSTS, AND DESPISED THE WORD OF THE HOLY ONE OF ISRAEL. (Isaiah 5:)
that refuseth instruction despiseth his own soul: but he
that heareth reproof getteth understanding.
2All the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes; but the LORD weigheth the spirits. (Prov 16:)
12Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. 13But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived. (2Tim 3:)
Have you ever heard anyone say this? I suspect you've not only heard it said, but that you've said it a time or two yourself.
We say that the Bible is simple and straight forward. We're taught that the Bible is written in such a way that the most uneducated can understand it. That's what we're told. And who is it that tells us this? Why, it's those who have studied the Bible in our schools of higher education, who have spent years and no telling how much money to learn the ins and the outs, the unobvious, who tells us this. Is there something wrong with this picture? Doesn't it sound like an oxymoron? If the Bible is so obvious, and so simple, why does it take a college education to understand it?
I think I know why.
Because it takes a lot of learning to twist the Words of God to say what they aren't meant to say. Here are some examples:
We are taught from the pulpit (far too many of them, not all of them) that we're to bathe in the love of God and to avoid fearing God. I admit that there are a couple verses that might be read to justify this concept, but using my simple, uneducated mind, I find well over a hundred places where the Bible say that we must fear the Lord, or else!
I've been taught since a youth that work is a bad word, and that work, that is, those who work, are doomed to hell. Yet I find at least a half a page of verses listed where the Bible says we must work, and that our works is what we will be judged by. And those who don't produce work will be cast into a fire like a dead branch. It takes a lot of education to wring this no-works doctrine from the Scriptures.
Looking for the hidden is not easy, and we must give a lot of respect to those who have gone to all the trouble and expense to learn how to deceive us. Yes, a lot of respect is due them, but I don't think that respect should extend to our eternal soul. You might disagree.
The Bible says: 13For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. 14And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. 15Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works. (2Cor 11:) Now, when I read this I see where Satan, and his messengers, are pretending to be angels of light and righteousness. To me this means I should watch out for such people, and to avoid their messages. But just to make sure I understand what this verse is saying, I looked up the word "transformed" in my concordance. Here I find that the word means to "disguise." or to "transform one's self." Well, to me that pretty well means that what I hear about Satan being an angel of light should be disbelieved and rejected. But thanks to the works of the educated, this principle has not only been neutralized, but we find Satan has now become a once beautiful angel, equal to Jesus in some accounts, and his name to mean "light bearer" (Lucifer) who lived in Heaven billions of years ago.
Take a close look at the verse again: "14And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light." We saw that the word transformed is better translated "Transformed himself." This being so, then where might the doctrine of Satan being an angel of light come from? Do the math and see what you come up with.
We don't like to think. We leave the thinking to those who consider themselves wise in their own eyes. And you can see where such an attitude is taking the world in all its facets.
The doctrine of Satan being a wonderful angel has no foundation in the Bible whatsoever, having been wrenched from a space between two words, and a half a verse drawn completely out of context. Yet it makes such a wonderful and fanciful story that now in all denominations and religions, even the unbelievers, it is believed to be so. It takes a lot of very delicate Scripture twisting to make this obscure doctrine stand in front of the very obvious doctrines such as the absolute need to obey the commandments, and of works being an absolute necessity if we're to avoid the pit. Only the highly educated could have pulled off such a thing. Got to give them credit for that.
Is it a new thing with the churches that wearing the Christian name tag, that is, being considered part of God's "chosen" people carries with it the attitude of being "better than thou"? In the days of the Pharisees it was easy to see why one class of people might take on such an attitude. These people (the Pharisees, Scribes, etc)
were very clearly of a chosen race, and they had devoted their life and every fiber of their being toward becoming the very best of the cream of the crop. Today what makes one group think they're better than another requires no more than the color of the name tag they wear. To tell you the truth, I don't think this is going to fly when it's all over with and we stand before that Great White Throne of Judgement.
1I said, Behold me, behold me, unto a nation that was not called by my name. 2I have spread out my hands all the day unto a rebellious people, which walketh in a way that was not good, after their own thoughts; 3A people that provoketh me to anger continually to my face; ..... 5Which say, STAND BY THYSELF, COME NOT NEAR TO ME; FOR I AM HOLIER THAN THOU. These are a smoke in my nose, a fire that burneth all the day. (Isaiah 65:)
"Not me," you say, "nobody tell me what to think or believe. I go by what I read in the Bible."
Interesting, that means you go by your own interpretation of the Bible. And how qualified, may I ask, are you to decipher what the Bible means when those who have studied the Word and the languages diligently can't figure out what it is saying?
It seems to me that Satan is not wasting his time with those people who are committing the big sins. These people are clearly on the wrong road from the get-go. Satan, it seems to me, loves to be crafty. He enjoys the subtle nuances of the game (Gen 3:1). He's not after the big wins, the war, because he knows the war is won by fighting the very little battles that go unnoticed. As an example of this we see how Satan tempted Eve. He didn't wrench the apple from the tree and force it down Eve's throat. That would have done no good anyway. Instead he pretended to be a friend, helping her to gain what she always wanted. He offered her the words that coincided with her desires that she was unable to come up with herself. You know what I mean, because I'm sure you've experienced the same thing yourself, both as a child, and probably yesterday as well. There was something you wanted to do, but you just couldn't find quite the right justification to get you over the barrier of conscience. Satan did this for Adam and Eve. Not only that, but he gave her someone to blame if she got caught. And caught she was, and blame Satan, the tempter she did. We need a devil to blame when we get caught committing that little white sin, whatever that might be. You need it, and I need it. And aren't we fortunate that we now have a society, a government, a school system, and the media that is offering us the excuses we seek to let us overcome our conscience and commit all those delicious lusts we wish so badly to partake of. And if we, after being bathed in justifications from all the preceding sources, are still unable to find the justification we need, maybe for fear of hell, we always have the church who will give us just the justification we desire to override our conscience. And who of us could possibly accuse the church of doing wrong?
Satan was given permission by God to give an all-out frontal attack on the most perfect of God's creatures, Job. But other than this example (which doesn't count for you and me, at least not for me, because I'm far from perfect) the examples we're given of Satan's ploy is that of little nibbles of the apple. David was tempted to number the people. Although we see where David committed some horrendous sins, we don't find Satan being a part of any but this one simple, seemingly harmless sin. Innocent surely, at least in our understanding, but the devastation David's little sin caused in the lives of innocent people was horrific. Satan tempted Jesus with a little bread. Peter was tempted to say a few words of denial. We might only be tempted to take a piece of cake that is forbidden us for whatever reason, or to tell a little white lie.
We are to have a sheer wall between us and sin, the temptations of the devil. We're to be so separated from the world, the lusts of the flesh, that we stand out as odd, and maybe even insane. Little sins are like bread crumbs that form a trail into that world we are to avoid. Satan wants to tempt us with just a little leavened bread, a tiny taste of the apple. He knows that if he can get us to indulge just a little, he has us well on the way to full-blown acceptance of everything evil. We see this in the churches, where those denominations that once stood as bastions of righteousness began to allow just the slightest bread crumb of leaven into their church, and now they are undistinguishable from the world they are to remain separated from. And most of the other churches, regardless of their claim to be otherwise, are rapidly following that breadcrumb trail.
And I dare say if you look around your house, and examine your own attitudes, you can see that leaven of the world working and expanding in your own life as well. You're finding that you are looking for the things of the Spirit less and less, and desiring things of the world more and more. And the list of excuses you give yourself is either growing, or they have grown to the point they are no longer needed to keep you from doing whatever you want to do. Look again at those churches that used to stand for righteousness. Now they no longer even attempt to apologize for their misdeeds, but they flaunt them and boast about their decent into the world they are to avoid (See 1Cor chapter 5 for just such an account.).
A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump. Eventually it becomes a huge cake that is irresistible. And unfortunately, the churches are not bothering to seek out and cleanse themselves of bread crumbs, but are instead baking huge cakes for themselves, and are insisting that everyone else partake of their adulterated leaven.
It is said that it's easier to believe a lie we've heard a thousand times, than it is the truth we've heard but once. There are a thousand lies being spread throughout the world. We all know this. And we all know what the lies are. Lies are what other people believe who don't believe as we do.
We have established systems of belief. What we believe, we seek out others who believe as we do and who don't challenge our beliefs (which might, heaven forbid, cause us to doubt our own beliefs). We hang around others who believe as we do (or say they believe as we do, although the chances are they believe nothing at all) which reinforces our belief system. Get enough people to agree with us, and we become the majority. And I'm sure you know, majority rules. Just look at the time of the Caesars, and of the Catholic Roman empire, the Nazi regime, the Russian Communist regime, and... well, you get the idea. It takes a majority to rule (except in modern America where it's the minority with the biggest mouths and the biggest bucks that rules).
Numbers of adherents is a pillar that bolsters belief. Another pillar is the written word. The written word is easy to manipulate so it supports our stance because all we have to do is write a book, and we become an authority. And don't you know, authority is a strong pillar on which to base one's belief system.
Some books, such as the Bible, are hard to get around. I mean, after all, the Bible not only has been around for a long time, and accepted by many of the churches (well, some anyway), but it was written by God Himself. That's a strong pillar to get around. But being human, and decedents of Adam and Eve who had their own sources of information other than God, yet still (in word, if not in deed) believed in God, we have our own voices we listen to and call it the Words of God. We can't change the words themselves (although we do in one way or another), but we can surely twist the words to say what they don't mean, just as the serpent did in the Garden. And who would know better what God really meant than a serpent? (Check a little farther down. There's more about the serpent coming up).
We have our pillars of belief. The problem is, like with any fantasy, there's always someone or something that comes along and weakens, or even tears down our pillars of belief. Nasty fellows they are, say what?
Luckily, when all our pillars of faith are kicked out from under us we have our old faithful support upon which to hang our beliefs. And we know this is a trustworthy support because it's the same one our government (and all governments since Nimrod) uses, as does our entire church system. The good ol' sky hook.
I find this very interesting because it seems to me that the churches today preach to not fear God, to not work, that there are no commandments, and that the purpose of man is that God might serve him, His creation.
Then I think of another time the tail of the serpent is mentioned,(this time in the form of a dragon, which we are told is still yet the serpent, Satan, and the devil (Rev 12:9). In this case the serpent's tail drags a large portion of the stars out of Heaven. Of course we think of Heaven as being somewhere waaaaaay out there in space somewhere. But Jesus said He came to preach the Kingdom of Heaven, that Heaven is here on earth, and that Heaven is within us. In other words, the Church, including Jesus, the Head, is Heaven (Mat 4:17; Luke 17:19-21; 1Cor 13:8-10). Assuming that Jesus knew what He was talking about, and that the war spoken of is here on earth and not in some far away place, and that the war involves us (just assuming remember, we know it can't possibly be true), let's take a look at the serpent's tale... I mean tail, from a different perspective.
1And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars: 2And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered. 3And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads. 4And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born. (Rev 12:)
First of all we have several elements to this passage that has to be cleared up. Tradition tells us this occurrence is something that is happening up there where God lives. But since God is Spirit (John 4:24), and is everywhere, where is this somewhere this war is taking place?
Again tradition tells us that the woman is Israel giving birth to Jesus. Well, was Israel and Mary in some spaceship at this time? I thought they were right here on ol' terra firma. But that can't be because the Bible plainly states they were in Heaven where the serpent was.
Again tradition states that this occurrence is taking place millions or billions of years ago, before the second creation ("recreation") of earth, and this is where Satan is cast out of Heaven to torture us poor innocent folks and get us sent to a fiery pit forever. Now I want to know: did this happen billions of years ago? Did it happen two thousand years ago? Or, like everything else in Revelation, is it something that is going to happen in the future? Ask the preacher who preaches on this passage (if you can find any, they seem to all avoid it as far as I can tell) and they'll toss it off like a politician at a press conference.
But let's leave the slippery tongue to the politicians and the preachers and see if we can figure out what might be happening here:
"A woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet" I think we can safely assume that John is not seeing a woman wearing the sun and standing on the moon. This being so, and if this is Israel, or the true Church, then I think we can safely say that this is a figurative statement, as is the dragon, and the serpent, representing something else. And if this is figurative, then wouldn't it make sense that the rest of the passage is figurative as well, in spite of the great efforts exerted by so many of the churches to force the entire Bible into a literal mold?
"And upon her head a crown of twelve stars." The woman is wearing twelve stars. Are these the stars we see every night do you think? I don't think you think this any more than I think this. If these aren't stars up in the wild blue, then just what are they? Tradition again tells us that these are the tribes of Jacob because of Joseph's dream (Gen 37:9) And again I'm going to stick out my neck and go against tradition and assume that Jesus knows better what these stars are than our theologians. How about you? Let's see what Jesus told John the stars represent way back in the beginning of the book of Revelation:
"20The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches." (Rev 1:)
Might I, in your opinion, be safe in going against tradition and say that stars don't mean stars in the sky or the tribes of Israel?
Jesus has clearly unraveled the mystery of the stars and the lamp stands. So why is it still a mystery to the theologians as to what these stars are? Why do they insist that the moon, the stars, and the sun are the nation of Israel? Do they think Jesus doesn't know what He's talking about? Is this verse, as so many seem to be, one that is missing from their study Bibles? Let's go against tradition and assume Jesus knows what He's talking about, and say the stars are the angels of the churches.
What angels? Are there any angels in your church? There's some people who seem to think they're heavenly beings in my church, but I don't think this is what Jesus is talking about.
Angel in the Greek, and the Hebrew means "messenger." This could be a messenger sent by a king or anyone else, or it very often means someone like a pastor of a church. I suspect pastor is what is meant here. Having nothing better to go on, I for one will assume that these seven stars are the pastors of the seven churches, which as far as I can tell, represent seven types, that is "conditions" of the churches throughout history. I think the first three chapters of Revelation, where Jesus is praising, rebuking and warning His churches bears this out.
If the stars are now and in the future, certainly not billions of years ago, then I think it's a safe bet that the woman and the rest of the events told here are also in the now, or at least future and not past.
"Behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads" Now, if we only knew what this creature was then I think we might have a good idea of what is happening, and what God is trying to tell us that we refuse to hear. Let's see if there is another reference to this beast ("Beast" means "dangerous animal." The same word is used for the snake that bit Paul. Which again brings us back to snake and its tail.)
1And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy. 2And the beast which I saw was like unto a leopard, and his feet were as the feet of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion: and the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority. (Rev 13:)
How about that? Here we have an animal exactly like the one described above. And there's the dragon with the tail (which we know to be a serpent and the devil) giving this beast all his authority. And wouldn't you know, this beast doesn't have enough sense to realize that he's supposed to be way back a billion years ago before the devil was cast out of Heaven, but thinks he's somewhere in the future. My-my, such confusion.
Then, assuming that this occurrence is future, and the stars are the pastors of the churches, then might it be possible that the serpent's tail is drawing a third of the faithful preachers out of the truth, the true church, and casting them to earth, the World's way of thinking? Isn't that reminiscent of what we're seeing today in the churches with more and more of the pastors preaching messages that would have been an abomination just a few years ago? And aren't we experiencing a "flood" of such false messages today that the world of churches are drinking up just as fast as the old dragon can flush it out of his mouth?
Let's see what else we can find about this serpent's tail:
5The ancient and honourable, he is the head; and the prophet that teacheth lies, he is the tail. 16For the leaders of this people cause them to err; and they that are led of them are destroyed. (Isaiah 9:)
The tail is the teachers and prophets that teach false doctrine. Could this be the tail of the dragon spoken of in the passages above? And did you notice what happens to those who listen to and follow them?
13For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. 14And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. 15Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works. (2Cor 11:)
Again we have the devil, active in the Church (Heaven, this partial realm (1Cor 13:8-10) behind his false ministers (wolves, tares Mat 13:38; Luke 10:3; 1Peter 5:8) deceiving people and leading them astray.
24For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. 25Behold, I have told you before. (Mat 24:)
If the very elect of God could almost be deceived by these workers of iniquity, what does that say for the average, luke-warm Christian who just follows blindly whoever happens to claim to be a leader of a church?
Just something to think about.
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